Insidious (UK - BD RB)
Marcus falls asleep for five minutes and suddenly he's surrounded by ghosts...
When one of their children falls into an unexplained coma, the Lamberts (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) start to have weird happenings in their house. Spooky visions and weird noises begin to freak Renai Lambert out and when they move house and the problem worsens, Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye), a lady with a knowledge of the paranormal, informs them of their real problems and how to fix them.
Insidious has built quite a lot of buzz since its cinematic release. I’ve had countless people tell me it scared the shit out of them or that it’s fantastic right up until the final act but generally I’d heard a good deal of positive and not so much negative, so was quite keen to get on this when given the chance to review it.
Really Insidious isn’t one movie, it’s three. The first act is a quite conventional modern horror with jumps, creepy haunted house situations, strained family life and the usual intrigue that usually goes nowhere once we get a dull back story to explain things. Act two is one giant homage to Poltergeist (with a few Ghostbusters elements) and for me really lifted my enjoyment of the movie as despite the kookiness, the filmmakers were owning it enough for it not to feel too odd. The last act is even more out there with a distinct 80s horror feel that without going into spoiler territory celebrates that old school horror that only needs some coloured lights, a fog machine, some spooky costumes, make up and an audience that is willing to go with it to work. I have to say for reasons I’m not too sure of I totally went with it.
I say I’m not too sure why I went with it because I can’t really say I liked any of the elements. I didn’t feel I knew who this family were at all. There’s the bare basics of information handed out but even as you grow to know more they don’t seem anything more than stereotypes. Also why is no one monitoring that kid in a coma all the damn time? Also neither Wilson or Byrne bring much to the movie acting wise. The visuals for the ghosts and such aren’t all that inspired either. Sure they are presented well - I especially liked the Darth Maul looking guy who photo bombs at any opportunity and the little boy in the utility room was brilliant stuff but the designs feel distinctly ghost house at a fun fair as opposed to believable movie scare inducers. So why is it I cam away from Insidious satisfied and dare I say entertained?
I have to say seeing something this goofy and 80s felt a little fresher than the stagnant predictable horrors that fill up our big screens. Sometimes it’s fun to see a horror go somewhere weird, not that this was proper, proper weird but the fact James Wan had the balls to go somewhere distinctly comic book in vibe for his big climax and not trip totally over to being a comedy at any point or even bounce back to more tried and tested horror wrap ups was enough to keep me on board and I have to say I came out with a bit of a teenagers grin on my face, which is something horror hasn’t got out of me for a while.
Insidious immediately feels like a good 'n' sharp modern HD transfer. The opening credits with their black and white images and bold red font are very striking and when we phase from black and white to colour while Rose Byrne’s character sleeps, the colour palette is revealed as having a creaminess to it. The cool colours of the movie combined with this creamy tint blasts out a lot of the finer detail outside of the close up shots but that doesn’t stop the overall effect from looking pretty great. In fact at about 19 minutes and 47 seconds, while the family are in the hospital with their comatose son look out for bug climbing up the pane of glass between them. It was so sharp I could have sworn it was own my own TV screen.
When the family move house the colours begin to sneak in for a while. Skin tones are a lot more natural, lighting gets a little more realistic and then we hit the final act. Here it all goes a little more extreme. Strong blues, yellows and reds fill the screen, deep, deep blacks make up large parts of the image and the lighting really begins to pop. There’s a tiny bit of banding around light sources and in fog clusters but generally speaking this is a good looking modern presentation with little to take issue with.
Insidious keeps its horror at heart and so the audio follows a certain criteria as you’d expect. Large chunks of silence or simple dialogue gets us feeling uncomfortable, usually with one other element such as a children’s voices or every day house sounds filling the front channels a little more. The home life is very realistically captured with this DTS-HD Master Audio track, we get a nice echoy kitchen, some nice creaks from the largely wooden house and generally a sound mix that isn’t quite Paranormal Activity but it’s not full on Hollywood filmmaking either. Then come the scares.
The track really comes to life in order to put the scares up the audience. Sharp sounds explode from the mix and usually the mixture of everything going off at once makes a great wall of sound. The strong score mixed with a scream, some banging, a baby crying, yelling and whatever else takes the calm (and of course eerie) house and sweeps it away from under you. It’s all quite typical but still effective and with a select handful of well placed atmospherics popping up in their very own speaker from time to time this is a track that’s out to get you.
‘Horror 101: Exclusive Seminar’ (10:26 HD) is the writer and director telling us what they wanted to achieve. They say about the house being a character and how it should be scary (I had the opposite effect. I really like the house and want to live there). They talk about their love of the ‘Haunted House Genre’ and from their upbeat personalities you get a real feeling this is exactly the movie they wanted to make.
‘On set with Insidious’ (08:15 HD) is some on set footage and a little bit about the shoot. ‘Inside Entities’ (06:32 HD) goes into the ghost designs and their use in the movie and finally there’s the trailer (00:47 SD).
I have to say Insidious won me over. Not for its scares, of which a handful are expertly played but for its willingness to play around with horror. It’s not afraid to be goofy, or worried it’s taking the audience somewhere a bit silly sometimes. It’s got its scares to fall back on and it seems to be taking them seriously even when your brain is telling you otherwise. The disc itself is pretty great across the board, though I have to say the informative extras could have done with a few more minutes on the runtime.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 12th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Extras: Horror 101: Exclusive Seminar, On Set with Insidious, Insidious Entities, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Debrah Hershey, Leigh Whannell,
Length: 102 minutes
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